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Support the rebels not military intervention - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Henry Kissinger, who was the US Secretary of State over three decades ago, and is still one of the most influential leaders of public opinion there, has opposed calls to intervene [militarily] against the al-Assad regime in Syria. In his article for the Washington Post, Kissinger acknowledges that intervention and overthrowing the regime would be in favor of US strategic interests, in terms of encircling Iran, and consistent with the humanitarian need to stop the regime’s massacres against its own people, but despite this he did not support military intervention to overthrow the regime. His opinion is based on the principle that intervention – legally speaking – is wrong, on the grounds that what is happening in Syria is an internal affair, and that the Syrian people’s desire for a transition towards democracy is not a justification for America to intervene on their behalf. The question of intervention seems to have distorted US policy from its operating framework.

Kissinger also lists several dangers as justifications to refrain from intervention, such as the fact that the US is currently seeking to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, so why get involved in Syria at the same time? America previously experimented and supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, who later on became a problem for them. Entering a country to overthrow a regime, when the alternative ruling system is largely unknown, is a dangerous adventure. Finally, the American public no longer has an appetite for any form of military intervention.

The importance of what Kissinger wrote, apart from being an echo of similar articles, lies in its timing. In the past few days the Obama administration was expected to announce its policy towards Syria, and we are waiting for the declaration of a policy that supports the Syrian people to overthrow the regime.

In response to what Kissinger said I will not discuss the concept of direct military intervention, because this is not required at this current stage, and it is hoped that the Syrians can be supported to defend themselves against the regime’s brutal forces. We know that support has reached the rebels, in terms of intelligence, financial aid and arms, but it is scarce.

Kissinger is right that it is not the job of the US to intervene in these countries and determine the nature of the ruling system, but he is wrong to regard Syria as a case of intervention under this pretext. Practically speaking the regime – as we know it – ended last year, and the kind of Syrian state that it ruled over for 40 years is no more. We are now talking about a failed regime, one that is semi-overthrown, and a country on the brink of civil war. Thus we expect all international parties concerned to cooperate in the management of the crisis so that it does not widen, and to help the Syrians choose the system that they want. The al-Assad regime itself knows that it is over, and it is trying to make final arrangements before it is buried. It wants to tear the country apart and turn it into another Somalia, whereas the rebels want to preserve the state as a whole. Thus, when we talk about the overthrow of al-Assad, this is not intervening in a stable country to carry out regime change, as Kissinger portrays in his article.

The reality is that all those interfering in Syria now are doing so for one purpose, including Russia, Iran and the Jihadists, and that is because they want to influence the phase after the fall of al-Assad. So why do we leave the Syrian people with an open table for these negative parties, whom the majority of the Syrian people do not agree with?

The regime confirmed its own fate when it chose a military solution, and absolutely refused a political solution. It failed when the demonstrations continued, military divisions began, the Free Syrian Army emerged, and the confrontations spread across the country. Now we see military operations in 70 percent of the country, and this means that the regime has lost its legitimacy and dominance.

We must support the Syrian rebels in order to achieve the following two objectives:

Firstly, in order to establish the authority and legitimacy of the known Syrian opposition, and reduce the chances of other suspicious opposition groups emerging. Do not forget that Iran used al-Qaeda against its Iraqi allies in Iraq, and the Lebanese in Lebanon before that, and it may be behind some of these groups in Syria as well.

The other objective of is to maintain the unity of Syria and pressure the rebels towards a greater degree of harmony, as well as to maintain the country’s institutions including the army and security services, and to ensure the stability of Syria and the region. These goals will serve the international community and the Syrians themselves before that, with all their components.

The other alternative would be the fragmentation of Syria, where everyone would lose out.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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